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How To Tell If You Are Allergic To Gold Or Silver Jewelry

Can you really be allergic to gold or silver jewelry?

If you suffer from contact dermatitis, stomatitis, swelling, eczema or skin eruptions with itching, then it may be a metal allergy and more specifically of gold jewelry allergy. 

trinity ring
Image via Cartier

“But wait, I only wear gold or silver jewelry and I was told these were pure and non-allergenic metals???” Then read further!

What are the symptoms of gold jewelry allergy?

A simple blackening of the skin when wearing jewelry is in no way a sign of an allergic reaction.

This is simply oxidation when metal is coming into contact with acidic skin. This is common and normal. 

Apart from the aesthetic aspect, there is no reason to panic.

Light itching, or even a ball at the level of the earlobe when wearing gold earrings (or silver): Does that mean that one is allergic to gold (silver)?

Well… not necessarily, there is a whole range of possibilities: 

  • a simple irritation due to too heavy or too mobile earrings
  • a slight intolerance to a varnish or to a polishing product applied to the jewelry in contact with the skin
  • the friction and acidity of sweat reacting with your jewelry

Let’s not forget that in the case of earrings, there is a hole in the body! So there are many reasons to have some reactions – more or less light – that are not necessarily candidates to be labeled as “allergies”.

Similarly, redness when in contact with a gold bracelet, watch or ring can be a sign of simple heat + sweat + acidity reaction. Not gold jewelry allergy. Especially if the jewelry piece is large, or if you are wearing your favorite statement jewelry piece.

So do not make hasty conclusions. The signs of an allergy are often much more virulent than a simple itch or discomfort.

In general, the symptoms of a gold allergy appear quickly (within 12 hours of wearing jewelry) and frequently (each time you wear the same metal). Above all else, the symptoms are intolerable (burning sensations, strong itching, eczema, blisters), just like with any other cutaneous allergy!

If you are unsure whether you are allergic or not, do not hesitate to consult a doctor.

Can you be allergic to gold or silver?

Pure silver and gold are non-allergenic metals, known for their passivity towards the body. 

Gold is a noble metal, very balanced from a chemical point of view, and for that it is generally neutral. Pure gold is even edible

Some cases of contact dermatitis to gold or silver have been identified, but they are extremely rare and quickly detected. 

However, gold and silver are regularly associated with other metals, for reasons of strength or aesthetics, and it is in these cases that skin allergies can be triggered.

Gold jewelry allergy is all about purity

When gold is not 24 carats (that is, 99% pure), other metals are involved.

But most gold jewelry of 18 carats or less is made of gold alloy. This means that some nickel, copper or zinc was added to make the jewelry more robust, or to change the original color of the gold or silver.

For example, in rose gold jewelry, there is a good dose of copper to give it that color. 

Zinc, nickel or palladium will create what is called white gold jewelry, giving a gray-gold color.

Even yellow gold jewelry is often made of gold and silver.

Besides changing the color, adding another metal to gold also makes the jewelry cheaper.

The same is true for silver. Pure silver (or fine silver or silver 999) will certainly not cause any problems.

But as pure silver is too soft, “silver 925”, also called “sterling silver”, composed of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, is more widely used. The copper makes the silver jewelry harder and more resistant.

And even if  the proportion is relatively reduced in sterling silver, it may be that a 925 silver jewel is the source of your problems…

The likely culprits for your “gold jewelry allergy” …


Nickel is one of the most well-known allergenic metals. It is estimated that in the USA, about 17% of women (and only 3% of men) are reactive to nickel

To prevent nickel allergy, the use of this metal has been prohibited (for cutaneous use) in some countries since the 2000s. 

The USA has no federal legislation concerning the amount of nickel in jewelry products, but some states do have their own regulations (like California with California’s Prop 65). 

The European Union limits the amount of nickel that can be used in jewelry through the “Nickel directive”. As a result, in the EU and Britain, the resale of jewelry made from nickel such as maillechort or alpaca (nickel silver) is most often prohibited. You shouldn’t find them in stores, in theory. 

But it is difficult to recognize nickel with the naked eye. When you are not familiar with metals, nickel looks very similar to silver. 

So the best thing to do is to take your suspect jewelry claiming to be made of “nickel free metals” to a jeweler and have it tested, or to purchase from a renowned brand that clearly states their items are “nickel free”. 


Copper is present in silver or gold jewelry in variable proportions. It can also be allergenic, although allergies to copper are much rarer compared to nickel. 

Stainless steel

Stainless steel is often considered a safe and non-allergenic metal. This is a mistake, since it can contain traces of chrome, cadmium or nickel! 

It is therefore likely to trigger an allergy in people who are very sensitive to these added metals. 


Brass, being an alloy of copper and zinc, is less capable of causing allergies than nickel. If you are allergic to brass, it is very likely that you are actually allergic to copper!

What about rhodium coating or gold plated jewelry?

Rhodium is a metal used to coat silver jewelry to prevent scratches and oxidation. Rhodium plating is easily recognizable because it gives the jewel a very white color.

Gold plating, on the other hand, is often done using 18K or 24K gold (instead of pure gold). The minimum plating thickness should be 3 micrometers (but much less in the case of a simple “flash” with fine gold).

These 2 coating metals are not allergenic, so  they cannot be responsible for your allergy.

If their thickness is important, this can suit allergic people for quite some time.

However, given the cost of gold and rhodium, the deposit is often very thin: a few micrometers at most.

This thin layer will inevitably get altered over time and friction. You should apply a layer of rhodium to your jewelry every 2 to 3 years. So if you have an allergy to the basic underlying metal, then it is better to give up!

One last thing to remember is that there is unfortunately no remedy or desensitization for metal allergies. The only solution is to avoid the metal and wear fully hypoallergenic jewelry, or to buy gold jewelry from recognized brands!

Gold allergy FAQs

How do you know if you are allergic to gold?

If you are allergic to gold, you might experience a rash, hives, itchiness, swelling and difficulty breathing when and after wearing gold jewelry.

Can you be allergic to gold jewelry?

Allergies to gold are rare, but they can occur. Symptoms of a gold allergy include redness, swelling and itching where the jewelry was worn.

Does 14k gold irritate skin?

14k gold can contain  copper which can cause allergic reactions, even if gold in itself is largely an hypoallergenic metal.

What does an allergic reaction to jewelry look like?

An allergic reaction to jewelry can cause a rash, swelling and itching. In severe cases, it can also lead to anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening condition.